Mihhail Lotman, University of Tartu
Igor Gräzin, Tallinn University
Anne Wagner, Université du Littoral Cote d'Opale, France
Peeter Järvelaid, Tallinn University
The present doctoral dissertation is an exercise in exposition, comparison, criticism and construction, and this is the result of a project conceived ten years ago. We have taken different traditions of legal reasoning, and by juxtaposing them have sought to clarify and assess semiotic presuppositions, in order to outline a theoretical framework of legal semiotics that would help to lay the foundations for semiotic theory of legal argumentation. These semiotic presuppositions have been the object of our study at the University of Tartu since our bachelor's thesis (defended in 2001) and master's thesis (defended in 2006). Our interest in legal semiotics was motivated by a very strong sense of dissatisfaction with the traditional methods and paradigms of contemporary jurisprudence, especially with those ones of legal argumentation. Traditional jurisprudence committed to a model of legal unity, does not for the most part seeks to describe how the views of legal actors interact with the views of other legal actors/participants of legal discourse in real situations of legal communication. Thus, it was the consideration of legal communication as a semiotic activity that caused us to doubt that law could be conceived in terms of traditional legal concepts. Legal semiotics can be regarded as a major advance because it debunks the prevailing assumptions about the nature of legal reasoning and replaces them with what seems a far superior explanation.
The main scientific objectives of this dissertation can be briefly formulated as follows:
1) to develop a conceptual framework for practical handling of complex problems of legal argumentation as they occur in the stages of legal communication;
2) to assess issues of compatibility/conflict between existing methods of legal reasoning and our semiotic model of legal reasoning;
3) to bridge the compatible aspects of different theories/models of legal argumentation to establish a generalizable model of legal argumentation.